8 votes

Streaming services and the endangered magic of the long-form series

5 comments

  1. [3]
    Akir
    Link
    To be completely frank, I don't really care about long series becoming extinct. I think that length is a liability. The most common and beloved long-format shows are sitcoms, which have formats...

    To be completely frank, I don't really care about long series becoming extinct. I think that length is a liability. The most common and beloved long-format shows are sitcoms, which have formats specifically devised to break the continuity of time - each episode is a 'reset' of the world. They don't necessarily get better for having a longer production run. quality can vary wildly over time - just look at The Simpsons.

    Long-form television dramas can have continuity, but that are a relatively new format (at least when you discount soap operas). Even when they do, they tend to be very focused on a season-long story arch. Halt and Catch Fire, for instance, has almost completely different stories every season, with characters who return, but sometimes have a vastly different personality. That's the only thing that is harder to do in a short run series - to convey emotion when a character dies or is forced to change - but it's not impossible.

    I'm not so full of hubris to say that no shows should have long runs, and some shows are great because of them. At the same time, long runs can also be discouraging. It's a lot of committment to watch a 100+ episode show that may or may not be consistently good. Even the best shows have content that won't please everyone. As much as I loved them, Dragonball Z had it share of filler content, and Avatar: The Last Airbender sure had a lot of annoyingly crass humor. As such, there aren't that many people I would recommend them to.

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      emdash
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Yeah, there's many exceptions to this rule. House M.D. is a fantastic series, and despite the relatively formulaic plot of having a patient who is sick, gets cured, gets sick again, before finally...

      Yeah, there's many exceptions to this rule. House M.D. is a fantastic series, and despite the relatively formulaic plot of having a patient who is sick, gets cured, gets sick again, before finally having the case solved; it managed to tell an interesting story nearly all the time, and often worked in several seasons-long arcs (Vogler, Tritter, Finding a new team, Cutthroat Bitch, etc) into the plot that added its own dynamic. Sometimes I want to get to know the characters and become invested for a few years, and that's okay.

      1 vote
      1. Akir
        Link Parent
        I didn't really intend to make any rules. More like a series of incredibly general statements. There's nothing wrong with investing in fictional characters. If I were to better encapsulate what I...

        I didn't really intend to make any rules. More like a series of incredibly general statements. There's nothing wrong with investing in fictional characters.

        If I were to better encapsulate what I meant to say, I would say TV shows should not necessarily strive for super long productions.

  2. tomf
    Link
    I like that TV is moving more toward a book structure. Only a few series have done this, but Too Old to Die Young dropped the typical episode runtimes to just tell that particular piece of the...

    I like that TV is moving more toward a book structure. Only a few series have done this, but Too Old to Die Young dropped the typical episode runtimes to just tell that particular piece of the story. Without the need for ad breaks and a lot of series dropping at once, there's absolutely no reason to stick to the formal structure.

    Many of the best series have suffered in the end, purely because they were trying to hit their syndication mark (100) or the network wanted to keep it going for that sweet, sweet blockbuster ad money.

    Ultimately, Too Old to Die Young demonstrates the future and current potential of the medium. The series itself might not be for everyone, but the structure is a perfect template that I hope more creators adopt.

    4 votes
  3. ibis
    Link
    I agree with the other comments. In my opinion there are very few tv shows that are good after 3-4 seasons. Comedies sometimes pull it off because character integrity and coherent plot is less...

    I agree with the other comments. In my opinion there are very few tv shows that are good after 3-4 seasons. Comedies sometimes pull it off because character integrity and coherent plot is less important so long as its funny. Game of Thrones was better than most, but they did that by rotating among a big cast of characters and killing off most of them along the way.

    A good exception to this rule is the show Schitts Creek. You can tell that the writers had mapped out the basic plot and character trajectories in advance, and so it actually just gets better as the show progresses and the characters grow into their potential. Despite it's growing popularity, the show runners have made the decision to end it after it's 6th season, because the story, as they planned it, has come to an end.
    I would like to see more TV shows planned out in advance in this way (and ended where it is logical and cohesive to do so).

    1 vote